For some time, at least the last 2 years or so, I have been a fairly avowed Ritualist. For those who don’t know, a ritualist is, according to the dictionary, “a student of or authority on ritual practices or religious rites; a person who practices or advocates observance of ritual, as in religious services.” For me, the ritual was what brought about Faith and especially a Catholic holistic Faith. Ritualism was the child of the Oxford Movement. Ritualism held at it’s heart that ‘beauty will save the world’ and brought forth some fo the greatest catholic missionary movements within the Anglican Church. However, it had a theological foundation that was found in the Fathers of the Oxford Movement. The Oxford Fathers developed the Tracts not to win chasubles and monstrances, but to set a foundation of ecclesiology and theology that presented a Church and Faith that was saved from the excesses of the Continental Reformation and the Medieval Roman innovations. What the Oxford Fathers like John Keble, Edward Pusey, and John Henry Newman fought for was the heart and soul of the Church and the Established Church’s place within the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.
What I am coming to the realization now is that we are back to square one here in North America. With the most recent communique from the ACNA’s Taskforce on Holy Orders and the Rites for Baptism and Confirmation that were just released, it has become more apparent that we have lost our bearings as a Anglican Church. We desperately need a (new) Oxford Movement, and not yet a Ritualist movement. We have to tell our stories, repeat our history, and provide a voice for the Faith Once Delivered. What this (new) Oxford Movement will (hopefully) accomplish is laying a more solid foundation for our work in the ‘highways and by-ways’ to be done. As catholics in the Anglican way, we have to take back ‘social justice’ from the broad church liberals and take back the words ‘evangelical’ and ‘missional’ from the fundamentalist conservatives. We are, as a great teacher once said, ‘Biblical Catholics’ and let’s run with that label.
So I disavow my ritualist label and lay it down for the sake of the Church. I still love ritual and liturgics, but I truly believe we have to educate and invite those around us and in our parishes into a revival of catholic thought and theology. We have to start from the ground floor of catechesis and do the hard work of ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’ I hope to lay some more thoughts soon as I think through the implications of going back to our centre as a Church and especially for those of us who self-identify as Catholics within the Anglican Way.